Jefferson Statue to be Removed from NYC City Hall

Last week members of the New York City Public Design Commission voted to remove a statue of president Thomas Jefferson from the City Council Chamber.

The statue currently stands near the chamber’s main dais. It was first erected in city hall in 1834 and moved to the City Council Chamber in 1915. Commissioned by Navy officer Uriah Phillips Levy, a New Yorker who was one of the first Jewish officers in the service, the statue is meant to honor Jefferson’s support for religious freedom within the military.

However, opponents argue that because Jefferson owned enslaved people and supported pushing indigenous people off their homelands, his statue should not stand in a spot of honor. Council member Inez Barron told NPR, “We’re not being revisionist. We’re not waging a war on history. We’re saying that we want to make sure that the total story is told, that there are no half-truths and that we are not perpetrating lies.”

Initially, the Public Design Commission planned to loan the statue to the New-York Historical Society after it was removed, where it would be displayed with educational text about Jefferson’s life. However, some expressed concern about giving the statue to a private entity with no accountability to public. No final decision about where the statue will go has been reached, but the commission has promised to find a location for the statue within the public realm by the end of 2021.